Road verges could be havens for pollinators - University of Exeter

Better-managed road verges can help boost pollinating insects, new research shows.

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies benefit from the plants and flowers in road verges, which form a network of “corridors” that provide food and shelter.

While there are downsides of living by the road, including exposure to pollution and the risk of being hit by vehicles, the researchers found that the benefits for insects far outweigh the costs.

The team of scientists, led by the University of Exeter, reviewed more than 140 studies.

They found that verges can be dramatically improved for pollinators by measures such as creating flower-rich verges, reducing mowing and limiting the impacts of street lighting.

“There is huge untapped potential to improve road verges for pollinators through management,” said lead author Ben Phillips, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“In many cases, this involves mowing less, and at the right times, to increase flowers and reduce the amount of pollinators, eggs and larvae killed. We can help pollinators further by reducing impacts of road pollution. This includes light pollution, which can be addressed by limiting how long streetlights are switched on for, as these confuse nocturnal insects.”

The study was a collaboration between the universities of Exeter, East Anglia and Cambridge, the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the conservation charity Buglife, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Access the paper: Phillips, B. B. et al. (2020) Enhancing road verges to aid pollinator conservation: A review. Biological Conservation (open access) DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108687

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